I don’t know about you, but at this point I really can’t be dating people who aren’t on the same page as me politically. We live in an extremely violent and oppressive society, and some degree of activism is necessary. If you don’t get that, you aren’t going to be able to support me in my growth. You might even end up harming me.
If you do get it, however, then we can support each other through our various actions. As we each explore, learn about, connect over, and dismantle hierarchical systems of oppression, we can progress into healthy identities together. We can share resources, provide comfort and affirmation, and also serve to hold each other accountable. We can enrich one another’s journeys and work to keep each other safe.
This is critical when it comes to protesting. Of all the different avenues that activism can take, protesting is among the most taxing and risky. It entails giving up a lot of time and energy, it can be costly, it’s emotionally exhausting, and of course, you run the risk of getting arrested. Having the support of a partner throughout protests can be make all the difference in having a wholesome experience and avoiding burnout.
Assuming your partner is protesting the right things for the right reasons, they deserve your unequivocal support. Assuming you are able to give that support (and it’s totally ok if you aren’t), here are some ways you can give them the holistic care that they need.
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1.Make protesting accessible.
There are many possible barriers to participating in a protest. It could be the location of the event, the language in which it’s being held, a disability of your partner’s, a previous trauma, and so on. If your partner has an interest in protesting but there is something standing in their way, work with them to remove the obstacle. This may mean accompanying them to the protest.
2.Develop a plan.
There are a few basic details that are worth planning out ahead of time. Have the phone numbers of their other emergency contacts on hand, and have a sense of who they want you to call in what eventuality. Agree on a time to expect them home or to hear from them. That way you know when it’s time to worry.
3.Contribute to financial management.
Protesting can be expensive, particularly in the event of an arrest. If possible, help your partner set aside bail money ahead of time. It also doesn’t hurt to have a small fund for phone calls – collect calls from the jail will add up quickly (single calls were costing us nearly $10 a pop).
4. Make supply kits.
There are some items that are always good to have on hand at a protest. Make up a bag for your partner that includes snacks, water, flashlights, and a lightweight first aid kit. If there is a chance that the protesters will be met with tear gas, pack goggles, a scarf or bandana, and milk for countering the chemical’s effects. It can also be prudent to pack needed medicine, along with prescriptions and/or a doctor’s note. In the event of an arrest, the jail will not allow you to take your own medicines, but if you have your prescription on hand, they may be able to prescribe you medication from their in-house pharmacy.
5.Assist with pre-protest prep.
The protesting partner needs to have a good meal in them before they get out into the streets. They also need to carry water, a few cash dollars for making calls or getting home in the event that their wallet or phone is taken. These are things you can provide or encourage them to do for themselves. A warm sweater with a hood and comfortable shoes are a must. Write key phone numbers, including a lawyer or legal hotline if possible, on the protesting partner’s skin. That way the information won’t get lost or confiscated if they go to jail.
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6.Know each other’s whereabouts.
This simple piece of advice is fundamental. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a protest, not least of which is getting arrested. Having a clear understanding or where you or they plan to be at what time can prevent a lot of unnecessary worry and help things go smoothly in the event that something goes wrong.
7.Don’t get arrested together.
If you’re both at a protest and it looks like there will be arrests, the two of you should check in with each other and have a frank conversation about which of you can get arrested and which of you will play it safe. One of you needs to be on the outside handling things like paperwork. The situation will be much more difficult to handle if both of you go down.
If you partner gets arrested at a protest, they will hopefully be let out within a day with instructions on following up with court and whatever else. Depending on their charges, however, they may need to be bailed out. Hopefully they have enough money set aside. If so, you can help by simply going to the bail office and filling out the paperwork. If not, you can ask friends and family for monetary contributions.
9. Anticipate the need for aftercare.
Be aware that your partner will need rest, attention, compassion, and space in the aftermath of protesting. Make some extra room for their thoughts and feelings. Depending on how bad your partner’s experiences were, they may require medical care, psychiatry and therapy visits. Be on the look-out for post-traumatic symptoms, such as irritability, insomnia, dissociation, hypervigilance, and re-experiencing.
10. DO NOT commodify, fetishize, or be indiscreet in any way about their experience.
Whatever happens at the protest, your partner’s experience is their own. They may not want their story told. If they do, they should be given space to tell it themselves. Nothing about them attending a protest gives you bragging rights. Respect their interpretation of the protest, and if you’re impacted by what they have to say, you’re always welcome to attend a protest for yourself.